Freida Pinto is one of the hottest young actresses working today, both in terms of her sultry looks and her international marketability. Straight off the stunning success of "Slumdog Millionaire," Pinto immediately began to take some more adventurous roles in a Woody Allen film, the box office hit "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" and the starkly emotional "Trishna." We recently spoke to Ms. Pinto by phone from Bombay, and we discussed her work as a woman caught in a power struggle between old and new Arab worlds in the latest Jean-Jacques Annaud film, "Day of the Falcon" as well as her upcoming role in Terrence Malick's "Knight of Cups," the nature of creativity and what place beauty has in the work of an actor.
Amanda Mae Meyncke: I was looking at your past work, "Trishna" and "Miral," and it's clear that you choose your roles carefully. Can you tell me what drew you to this role?
Freida Pinto: It was actually the director [Jean-Jacques Annaud]. At the end of 2011, I was looking for a film project that was completely different from everything I'd done so far, for me. I'm such a big, big fan of his work, he's always made films that are so beautiful and so fantastical, and the scale he shoots at... and so I was very much drawn to wanting to work with him and that's how this film happened. He had watched a film of mine, "Miral," at the Venice Film Festival and approached me.
AM: "Day of the Falcon" was made quite a while ago, and is just now seeing a release, partially because of bad reviews. Is it difficult to see those bad reviews, knowing how much time and effort it takes to make a film?
FP: It is kind of, but that's what you sign up for in a way. It's not like theater where there's instant gratification - you perform and you get audience reactions, good, bad or whatever it is, and you wake up and do the same thing again. With films, you shoot a film and then you've got to wait for a very long time, there's production work and post-production work, and sometimes there's issues with trying to find distribution and the right time to release the film... it's just the beast that it is, so there's not much you can do about it.
AM: Do you read reviews of your work, critical or positive?
FP: Yes, I do. Well, sometimes I do - I'm very moody about it. Whatever I feel like doing at the start of the day is what I will go with. I think that if you read something, and if it's something someone already has said to you, then good or bad, whatever it is, it's a re-affirmation of, "Okay, this is what I've got to work on. Okay, this is what I've been appreciated for." You take it from there and you go ahead with it, you don't get stuck with what you read or mull over it for too long.
AM: I think actors tend to learn from every film they're in. What did you learn from "Day of the Falcon?"
FP: That it is very hard finding vintage costumes that actually work for me. I think we spent almost two or three weeks trying to find me the right costumes, it was so hard. Especially when it's a period drama, you want to be as accurate and exact as possible.
AM: Did you end up doing extensive research for your role?
FP: I had a couple of people that the producer hooked me up with that I spoke to. I learned from them about the culture that I was unfamiliar with, because it was very important to me to play the role with as much honesty as possible. I spent a lot of time talking to them about texts similar to [the one this film is based on], having them describe certain fables which was incredibly helpful. But it is a film at the end of the day, there's going to be a fantastical element to it. As an actor we do have a creative liberty and license to play around with things a bit. So yes, it was a blend of everything. Some of my own imagination and my own creation, and taking things from culture and reality.
AM: Do you ever find your beauty to be a handicap to your acting? I loved "Trishna," but felt like your excellent and very emotional performance might have been overlooked because of how beautiful you looked in the film.
FP: ...I think the more attention you pay to something as superficial as that, it handicaps your acting. That's how I look at it. It kind of makes you very overly conscious about how you look on camera, when you get into a role, not caring about any of that, you don't care about it so that comes across as how you're feeling on screen and you can't really lie about it. Then it's up to the audience, and they can make whatever they want of that. I'm not one to think about, "Oh my God, this is a role for a beautiful girl," and to pick my roles like that would be very stupid for me as an actor. For me, I've always said one of my favorite characters is Charlize Theron in "Monster" - how transformative for someone whom the world calls the most beautiful woman ... for her to play that character and to lose herself in it, we actually end up finding beauty in that as well. So in that sense, I guess beauty is a lot about the way you want to look at it, and up to you.
AM: So you love women who play against their type? Are there other actors who you love who play against type?
FP: There are so many! One of my favorite actors is Javier Bardem, he always challenges his previous roles, and basically does the unexpected. No one expected him to play his character in "Skyfall" the way he played it, but he was very into it and menaces us all and at the same time is however charming that he wanted to be. It's nice to have actors like that, who are not afraid of taking on challenges. It's very inspirational.
AM: Can you tell me anything good about the upcoming Terrence Malick film, "Knight of Cups," which you're rumored to be in?
FP: I cannot tell you much about it at all, but I can just tell you that it was a brilliant experience working with Terrence Malick, like everyone says. It is no exaggeration, it is the truth.
AM: If you weren't acting, what would you be doing?
FP: Definitely not your job, dear. It's so hard! No, I don't know, it's very hard. I've thought about it and it's hard for me at this point in time to think of anything else other than acting. Maybe something in the creative field. Honestly, tomorrow I could change my profession, but I'll stick to acting for now.
AM: Do you have any interest in creating your own roles? Perhaps writing or directing?
FP: Oh yes, absolutely. Not writing and directing at this stage, I've got a long way to go and lots to learn before I get there. I'm always creating my roles, constantly cooking things up, speaking to writer friends, asking them "Do you think we could make this into a film? Do you think this is possible?" Just being in a creative space like that all the time is very stimulating, I'm constantly working on creating something that is original and mine.
"Day of the Falcon" will see a limited theatrical release March 1, 2013.